Design, Evolution, and Creation:
Questions in Science & Theology

( this is a description of web-pages by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D. )

I suggest beginning with the overview of my web-pages,
and then using this page for a more detailed explanation.

      This page briefly summarizes my views (and provides links to overview-pages), gives tips for reading what I write, and describes pages in six categories:  age of the universe;  the credibility of historical science;  theological questions about origins;  scientific questions about origins;  origins education;  mutual interactions between worldviews and science.
      All non-italicized links in the main body of this page will open a new page in a new window, so this page will remain open in this window.  And links in bold indicate major pages, which I suggest for reading.

        a summary of my views:
        Theologically, I think that:   God initially designed the universe and created it "from nothing", and is now involved in natural process by sustaining it and sometimes guiding it;   miracles are possible during the formative history of nature — and might seem probable IF this history was analogous to the salvation history of humans recorded in the Bible, which included divine action that was usually natural-appearing and occasionally miraculous-appearing — but miracles during formative history are not theologically preferable or necessary.   The characteristics of most miracles in the Bible, such as the healing in Acts 3, provide theological support for divine creations by a modification of existing organisms and genomes, rather than creations that are independent from (without any hereditary relationship to) previously existing organisms.
        Scientifically, based on evidence-and-logic, I think God created the universe 14 billion years ago, with a fine-tuning of nature so it would be mostly self-assembling, but perhaps not totally self-assembling.  My theories (held with appropriate humility) for "how God created" are independent miraculous-appearing creation of the first life, followed by a progressive creation of complex life in a continual creation through natural-appearing evolution (probably guided by God, sometimes or always) over billions of years, possibly supplemented with occasional creation by miraculous-appearing genetic modifications.  But if God created in other ways, including an all-natural evolutionary creation, I wouldn't be surprised or dismayed.  All modes of divine creation during formative history — in a design of nature, natural-appearing action, or miraculous-appearing action — would be intelligent design.
        Methodologically, in science I think naturalism (assuming "it happened by natural process") should be flexible, not rigid;  it should be viewed as the most useful starting point for science, as an assumption we make and then test, instead of a conclusion that must be accepted.  A methodological naturalism is theologically acceptable because it is not the same as a philosophical naturism claiming that "only nature exists."  In principle, but maybe not in practice, some types of design-directed action (as in a miraculous-appearing creation of life, or a modification of genomes) might be detectable by using the methods of science, leading to a probabilistic conclusion, by a logical evaluation of empirical evidence.
        Relationally, my goals are accurate understanding and respectful attitudes because our relational views (our views of other views and other people) are an important part of life.  These goals are consistent with my recognition that an appropriate level of humility, about theology and science, is justifiable and useful.  I claim to have some productive ideas about Origins Questions, rather than The Origins Answer.  But humility should appropriate;  for some questions (such as age of the universe & earth) we can be confident, because even though humility can be logically justifiable and is useful (both intellectually and relationally) we often have reasons for rationally justifiable confidence, so I think postmodernism "goes too far" and converts a good idea (re: humility) into a bad idea (re: skeptical extremes and radical relativism and Reality 101).
        Educationally, my philosophy and goals — as editor of the ASA website for Whole-Person Science Education — are described in the home-pages for Creation Questions and Origins Evidence and in Accurate Understanding & Respectful Attitudes and (more generally) in the homepage for Whole-Person Education and in a page explaining how the link-pages are designed to allow a Quick Education (and Deep Education) for you.

details about my views 

      The following pages provide an overview for many of my ideas (but not all) about origins:
      Reading this page (the one you're now reading), which briefly outlines each of my pages, will give you a "big picture" view of a wide range of origins questions.  In September 2006 (with continuing revisions since then) I wrote an FAQ about Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (it's a set of responses to Frequently Asked Questions) that is a good summary of my views;  you can begin with the "read me first" introductory FAQ, and continue with any parts of the Overview-FAQ (which I think is the best balance of brevity and thoroughness) that seem interesting;  I especially like Sections 5A-5G.
      The Compatibility of Science and Religion:  This page asks, "If you learn and use science, will this weaken your faith?" and "Are science and religion at war?", and examines the relationships between science and natural process, and miracles, and scientism.
      Young-Earth Views:  Two of my favorite pages are Biblical Theology for young-earth Christians — it begins with an invitation, "if you are a Christian with young-earth views, or if you're wondering what to think about age, this page is written for you, to share Bible-based ideas that you'll find both challenging and comforting" — and Young-Earth Creation Science which "looks at four types of arguments — two (used by proponents of a young earth) are non-scientific, and two (used to evaluate claims about age of the earth) are scientific — plus some strong evidence about age."  An earlier "combination page" (Young-Earth Creation: Theology and Science) explains why young-earth theories are not theologically necessary or scientifically plausible;  it begins by explaining that "advocates of young-earth views should be admired for their sincere desire to believe what they think the Bible teaches;  but they should consider the possibility that their interpretations are too rigid, and are wrong."
      Theology and Theistic Evolution explains why, even though I don't think "totally natural evolution" is the way it happened, I think this view should be carefully considered, and evolutionary creationists (who think natural evolution was God's method of creation) should be treated with respect as fellow Christians.  { But I also ask "What is theistic, not just deistic, about theistic evolution?" and "What does 'God of the gaps' mean (there are many possible meanings!), and why (due to this ambiguity) should it be eliminated from our vocabulary?" }
      Methodological Naturalism (Are scientists required to always conclude that "it happened by natural process"?) and Intelligent Design (What is it?) and Intelligent Design (Is it scientific?) were "split off" from a page — The Origin of Life: A Test-Case for Naturalism — that asks, "Is a natural origin of the first carbon-based life accepted by most scientists (and textbook authors) because this theory is supported by scientific evidence-and-logic, or because of naturalistic philosophy?", and — before it was split apart — provided an integrated overview for a wide range of ideas about methodological naturalism and design theories, closed science and open science, critical questions and scientific freedom.
      Worldviews in Origins Science:  Our worldviews (which include religion and much more) influence everything we do, and a desire for personal consistency produces mutual interactions between scientific theories and religious theories, with each influencing the other.
      Logical Evaluations of Evolution and Creation examines basic principles of logic, and develops guidelines for how theories about origins should be compared and evaluated.  In five related sections — Comparisons and Definitions, The Many Meanings of Evolution, The Many Meanings of Creation, Logically Valid Comparisons, and Shifts of Meaning — it shows how illogical "shifts of support" can cause the scientific support for some aspects of neo-Darwinian evolution to be overestimated.
      Origins Education in Public Schools: Critical Thinking about Evolution and Intelligent Design summarizes a variety of ideas about worldviews in public schools, hidden arguments, debates and dangers, methodology and philosophy, critical thinking and shifts of meaning, and more.

      A page about quick education explains how — in three decisions (about watching and reading Lord of the Rings) and a library — I realized that the website I'm developing (for the Science Education Commission of ASA) offers a "Cliffs Notes" approach to a quick education, and that when I'm writing my goal is to give you a distilled essence of important ideas, a coherent overview that will help you understand ideas and their relationships.

      Here are two tips for reading what I write, based on the principle that whatever we do in life should be fun and/or useful:
      An effective strategy is stop-and-go reading: read for awhile, stop and think, then do it again.  What I write is a condensation — a distilled essence of ideas — so there isn't much to read, but there is a lot to think about.  The overall result of the high ratio of ideas/words is that you can learn a lot quickly, and this is useful.
      An effective motivator is wanting to learn.  Are my pages fun?  Probably not, if you think fun requires humor.  But if you're excited by ideas, and you enjoy learning and thinking, you'll probably think my pages are fun because they'll help you explore the drama of ideas.

      How old is the earth?
      Principles for Using the Two Books of God examines the interactions of people with ideas, and with each other, by asking:  1) How should we use the information that God has provided for us in scripture and nature?  2) When we disagree (in our interpretations of scripture or nature), what should we do?
      Biblical Theology for young-earth Christians — If you are a Christian with young-earth views, or if you're wondering what to think about age, this page is written for you, to share Bible-based ideas that you'll find both challenging and comforting.
      Young-Earth Views (Theology & Science) explains why these views are not theologically necessary or scientifically plausible.  {details above}
      Historical Science: Can it be scientific? (Part 1)  This question is motivated by young-earth creationists who question the credibility of all historical science by claiming that presuppositions determine conclusions.  They ask, "Were you there?  Did you see it?", and declare that "no" means "therefore you can't know much about ancient history."  Part 2 builds on the foundation of Part 1, and explains why historical sciences can be useful in our search for truth when we ask "age of the universe" questions.  { But historical science will be impossible if historical evidence is misleading, if a young-earth theory claiming that Apparent Age (with a false appearance of age) is not Actual Age is correct. }
      Death and Sin (theology for humans not animals) explains why a major theological concern of young-earth creationists (death before sin) is not justified by the Bible.
      Evolution and Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics explains why, contrary to claims by many young-earth creationists, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not about "disorder" and it does not prohibit evolution.
      Thermodynamics and Theology: Entropy and Sin explains why the Second Law is an essential part of the way God has cleverly designed nature, and is about mathematical probabilities, not disorder and sin.

      Can historical science be reliable?
    Historical Science: Can it be scientific? — Parts 1, 2, 3:  This question is necessary because young-earth creationists challenge the credibility of all historical sciences by asking, "Were you there?"
      Descriptions for Part 1 and Part 2 are above.
      Part 3 begins with a question about evolution — Can a theory of evolution be scientific? — to establish a foundation for asking the analogous question about design — Can a theory of design be scientific? — because most arguments against the reliability of historical science apply to both evolution and design.
      Is old-earth creation inconsistent because it accepts one consensus conclusion of modern scientists (about age of the earth) but questions another (about evolution)?  This page looks at the reliability of historical science, evidence-and-logic supporting theories, relationships between theories, and bias of scientists.

      Theological Questions about Origins
      Some questions are above in How old is the earth?
      Theistic Evolution (Evolutioonary Creation) and Theology is my criticism-and-defense:  I think "totally natural evolution" is not the way it happened, but this view should be respected and carefully considered.  {a detailed description is above}
      Comparing Evolutionary Creation and Progressive Creation uses quotations — from Howard Van Till, Keith Miller, Terry Gray, Loren Haarsma, George Murphy, Robert John Russell, Peter Rüst, Gordon Mills, Stephen Jones, and Hugh Ross — to show their ideas (and my own) about divine guidance of natural process, evolutionary creation with intelligent design, progressive creation with common descent, questions (scientific & theological) and appropriate humility.  (63 k + 16k)
    also, God of the Gaps asks "What does it mean?" and "Should it be eliminated from our vocabulary?"

      Scientific Questions about Origins
      When scientists study a feature of nature (a star, bacteria, whale, biochemical system,...) they can ask about its origin.  Is there evidence that it was produced by design-directed action, with action that occurred:  1) at the beginning of history, and/or  2) during history?   If the universe was designed so natural process would produce the feature, it would be #1-design, and #2-design would be indicated if a feature shows "signs of design" and it exists even though it probably would not be produced by undirected natural process.  The following pages explain why I think there are scientific reasons for questions about origins of the universe, first life, and complex life:
      The Anthropic Principle and Three Explanations for a Fine-Tuned Universe that is "Just Right" for Life: A Multiverse and/or Intelligent Design?   Was the universe designed?  Scientists are convinced that small changes in the properties of nature would make intelligent life impossible, but two theories claim to explain why our universe is what it is.
      What is a theory of Intelligent Design? describes four types of design, and explains what a "design theory" is and isn't.
      Can a theory of design be scientific?  Can evidence-and-logic be used to find support for or against a design theory?  to prove or falsify it?  it can be useful to think in terms of Scientific Evaluations and Philosophical Interpretations.
      The Science of Chemical Evolution:  Could a nonliving system naturally achieve the "minimal complexity" required to replicate itself and thus become capable of changing, in successive generations, by neo-Darwinian evolution?  { This page describes my views and other views; it contains some ideas from the previous two pages — What is a theory...? and Can a theory...? plus some new ideas, with specific applications for difficult scientific questions about the origin of life. }
      Logical Evaluations of Evolution and Creation examines basic principles of logic, and develops guidelines for how theories about origins should be compared and evaluated.  { also, there is a page with questions about Irreducible Complexity and Rates of Evolution }

      Education about Origins
      My educational philosophy and goals, as editor of the ASA "Whole-Person Education for Science and Faith" website, are described above.
      Homepage for Origins Education (written by me as editor) summarizes useful ideas.
      Origins Education: Critical Thinking about Evolution & Design in Public Schools summarizes a variety of useful ideas about worldviews in public schools, hidden arguments, debates and dangers, methodology and philosophy, critical thinking and shifts of meaning, and more.
      Origins Education in Public Schools describes web-resources (and provides links) in five areas:  Freedom and Responsibility (Should a teacher be free to "teach the controversy" by describing evidence for and against the majority and minority views, and explaining why there is disagreement?  Or does scientific integrity require that a science teacher should try to convince students that the majority view is true?), Legality and Constitutionality, Methods of Teaching, Educational Policies, and Young-Earth Views.
      Origins Education in Christian Schools looks at different approaches to teaching about origins questions in private schools and home schools. (and in churches)
      A talk for the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association in April 2006: A Resource for Evolution Education in this Multi-Position Website (from ASA) that can help you Cope with Complexity in a Climate of Controversy.

      Science and Worldviews
      This theme begins with three foundation-pages about the nature of science and the mutual interactions between science and worldviews:

        An Introduction to Scientific Method explains the simplicity of scientific logic (which uses reality-checks to decide whether "the way we think the world is" corresponds to "the way it really is") and (in a model of Integrated Scientific Method that includes empirical/logical "reality checks" plus conceptual factors, cultural-personal factors, and thought styles, operating at the level of individuals and communities) the complexity of actual science.
      Worldviews in Science:  Yes, scientists are influenced by their worldviews — their views of the world, used for living in the world — which mutually interact with (and are manifested in) personal desires, group pressures, philosophical or religious views, and cult ural thinking habits.  In this page I ask, "Should scientific method be eks-rated?", and summarize my opinions about controversial "topics for hot debate" among scholars:  Are some views of science dangerous for students?  Can too much of a good thing be harmful?  Do scientists seek truth?  Do they claim proof?  Do they create reality?  How can we avoid running away (or being carried away) to silly extremes?
      Worldviews in Origins Science says: "A desire for consistency produces mutual interactions between scientific theories and religious theories, with each influencing the other, and our cultural-personal worldviews (which include religion and much more) influence everything we do,... so worldviews can influence science, and science can influence worldviews."

  How can worldviews influence science?
    This section begins with the left-side column of Worldviews in Origins Science, which describes how a general principle — we should recognize the influence of "worldview factors" in science, and (in an effort to make science more effective in a search for truth) we should try to minimize this influence — can be applied to our scientific studies of origins.
    An obvious example of "worldviews influencing science" is young-earth creationists who begin with a strong commitment to a young-earth theology (based on their interpretation of Genesis) that makes "logical adjustments" necessary in their science, which becomes young-earth science that is not high-quality science.
    The Origin of Life: A Test-Case for Naturalism? asks whether a natural origin of life is accepted because of naturalism or science.  If scientists are learning that what is required for life might be greater than what is possible by undirected natural process, should they consider the possibility that life was not produced by undirected natural process?  (a detailed description is above}
    Critical Thinking in Closed Science (and Open Science) looks at Michael Behe's experience with science journals, asks "Should critical questions be encouraged or censored?" and "Does bias indicate falsity?" (no), and describes two ways to define scientific objectivity, in terms of flexibility and logic.
    Why don't we all agree?  Causes for disagreement can be "internal" or "external" with respect to the essential foundation of science (the logical evaluation of evidence) that provides a reliable way to learn about nature.
    Open Science is not Theistic Science, but is it better science?  This page explains that theistic science is only one of the many worldview-perspectives that are allowed in open science, and summarizes ideas from previous pages (re: The Origin of Life and Critical Thinking) about the benefits of open science in a search for truth about the history of nature, and introduces a few new ideas.


    How can science influence worldviews?
    This section begins with the right-side column of Worldviews in Origins Science, which summarizes key ideas from the following pages:
    Science and Christianity: Conflict (what about Galileo?) or Compatibility?   This page asks, "If you learn and use science, will this weaken your faith?" and "Are science and religion at war?", and examines the relationships between science and natural process, and miracles, and scientism.  If we reject scientism — and use science to answer only the questions it is designed to answer — the potential dangers of science can be minimized, and we can find reasons to be excited about science, which can help us understand a world created by God, using minds given by God.
    But if a person who is convinced that "if the Bible is true, the universe is young" learns (and understands) the strong scientific evidence for an old universe, it can affect the person's faith.  Practical principles and personal examples are in a page about Age of the Universe (why it does and doesn't matter).
    Naturalism and NATURALISM explains the two meanings of "naturalism" and why this often causes confusion when we discuss
methodological "naturalism" or "naturalistic" theories in science.
    The Potential Worldview-Effects of Methodological Naturalism explains the two limits for science, the futility of humility, how to bypass the process and claim the support, plus two important differences (so methodological naturalism isn't atheistic), how methodology can influence philosophy, and hidden arguments.
    Freedom in Theology and Science (will be developed in the future):  Based on my studies of science and theology, I think that different scientific views — in the many variations of theistic evolution, old-earth creation, and young-earth creation — are compatible with a Christian theology of creation, so we have freedom to follow the evidence and logic of science wherever it leads, and science poses no threat to essential Christian theology.



World Views (reality,...) and Quantum Mechanics  (my web-pages about worldviews)

Exploring Education: Learning, Thinking, Teaching  (my web-pages about education) 

Christian Education for the Whole Person  (Principles, Motivations, and Worldviews)

a brief bio-page (information about the author)

      MORE PAGES about ORIGINS QUESTIONS (loose ends and expansions)

      Many times, my pages about "open science" have been revised (mainly by condensing, reorganizing, and re-thinking, but occasionally by expanding):  In early 2004, I wrote two introductory pages — Methodological Naturalism in Our Search for Truth and A Brief Introduction to Theories of Intelligent Design — to condense essential ideas, but then I wrote a page — The Origin of Life: A Test-Case for Naturalism? — that is better for "pulling together the essential ideas" so I suggest reading it.   /   The original sections (7A-7G) that are now in other pages (with revisions that are usually minor, but not always) are gathered together in a page claiming to explain why Open Science is Better Science.

      There are also older "long versions" (before they were condensed and revised) of many sections or pages.  These often have additional ideas that aren't in the condensations, so if you're interested in a topic you may find them interesting and useful, but I strongly suggest that you first read the condensed versions that are described above in the main part of this page.  Here are some long versions:  Theistic Evolution  Young-Earth Views  Age of the Universe (why it does and doesn't matter)  Entropy and Evolution  The Process of Logically Evaluating Evolution and Creation  Can theories of design be authentially scientific?  Open Science is Better Science (long version).

If you like this page, you may also like the following related page.
homepage for Origins Questions
(in the "Whole-Person Science Ed" website of ASA)

This page is